Friday, February 13, 2009

Counting Chickens

Yesterday's snail mail included a long, loving letter from a friend: "I'm praying your blog, every death..." and every detail, she wrote. I was deeply moved and very grateful.
Last night Emmah, who is recovering from malaria, and I watched a movie, the generous gift of another dear friend. We saw the 1973 film about St. Francis of Assisi on a DVD on my laptop. (Remember "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" and the refrain "Step by step, stone by stone"?) Again, I was deeply moved and very grateful.

It's been a disconcerting week, so the messages were well-timed. Asante sana, Mungo/Thank you, God, and thank you, friends.

Nan, Carolyn, Truphena, Margaret, Gladys and I will travel for several hours today via tortuous roads to a new orphan program in Eshiamboko Archdeaconry. Among other things, we will formally present photographs of the donors of the "Kids and Kukus" project to the Mothers' Union there. Thanks to St. Andrew's Sunday School and Chilmark Chocolates, the 200 neediest orphans in the five parishes comprising that archdeaconry will begin raising chickens. The chickens will provide eggs for dietary protein, plus a small income so the children can save for their own school fees. (For photos, click on the Picasa connection at left.)

School fees, you ask? Yes, Kenya has ostensibly "free" public primary schools, but new and more prohibitive "fees" are added every term. Peter's situation is a classic example. He is 12, a good student and the son of our neighbor Irene, a hard-working ward attendant and single mama. Peter was turned away from school on Wednesday. He had arrived with the requisite "furniture fee" (for a desk), uniforms and books, but he did not have 4,000 Kenyan shillings, the equivalent of $50, for a "hockey stick fee."

Peter has asthma and doesn't even play hockey, but he is required to purchase a stick. "Mama Peter" spent an exhausting day, missing work, traveling by matatu to borrow money from friends and relatives and to shop for a hockey stick -- only to discover they were out of stock in Kisumu. All that, simply so her son could attend "free" public school. Peter's school finally accepted him on Wednesday night with partial payment of the hockey stick fee and Irene's promise to pay the balance by the end of February. But once again the hospital paychecks (due at the end of each month) have not been distributed.

It puts our U.S. real estate taxes and employment laws into perspective, but that doesn't help Peter. Kenyans (except for the 54 members of Parliament, of course) pay income taxes, but they pay no property taxes. The majority of the population earns less than $1 per day, however, and land titles are in perpetual dispute, so very few people ever own property.

"Step by step, stone by stone," and chicken by chicken... God's time is not often ours, but I am grateful for reminders of His love and yours. So are the orphans in Eshiamboko Archdeaconry.

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